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Poor Communication Between Different Cultural Groups Within a Country

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Poor communication within a country between the different cultural groups could eventually lead to a country being in the middle of a civil war. If the decision makers can’t agree on how the country should be run and each cultural group doesn’t have an equal say then it will start to cause conflict between the different cultural groups. I have spent four years in Iraq and the country is divided mainly of two cultures Sunni’s and Shia’s. After the war in 2003 “the Sunni Arabs were deposed, paving the way for the rule of the Shia majority and the rise of Kurdish political influence” (Moaddel, Tessler, & Inglehart, 2008, p. 624). The government is made up mostly of Shia’s that are in power. The Sunni’s don’t have any leadership in power making any decisions on their behave. Because of the poor communication between the Sunni’s and Shia’s the Sunni’s have been starting a civil war with the Shia’s trying to regain power. Because of the civil war this has significantly affected the international commerce and foreign policy. The oil prices has started to rise and this is now affecting the prices of gas making them continue to go up. Also the United States has sent American troops back into Iraq to assist the government against the Sunni fighters to help take back control of key cities. Even though the two cultures have lived together in the same country for thousands of years because they have different cultural patterns.

Due to the different cultural patterns this has continued to separate the two cultures and adding to the lack of intercultural communication. “Cultural patterns are primarily inside people, in their minds” (Lustig & Koester, 2010, p. 85). Both the two cultures have different culture beliefs. At one point there was no split between the Muslims until the Prophet Muhammad passed away then the two groups started the Shia and Sunni groups. The Sunni’s chose Abu-Bakr as their leader and the Shia’s didn’t like that so they had their own leader. “According to Shia Islam, Ali was the rightly successor to Muhammad, both as political leader of the community and as spiritual leader” (Campbell, 2008, p. 435). Since the two cultures have such different cultural patterns and they can’t agree on anything. It makes it almost impossible for the different cultures to communicate and try to work things out. Neither culture wants to bend a little to try and make piece for their people. By the two cultures not being able to find a effective way to communicate it’s only going to continue to push the two cultures apart.

Both the Sunni’s and Shia’s use a high context as their communication device. High context “messages most of the meaning is either implied by the physical setting or presumed to be part of the individual’s internalized beliefs, values, norms, and social practices; very little is provided in the coded, explicit, transmitted part of the message” (Lustig & Koester, 2010, p. 109). After spending time with both of the different cultures the messages are never complete the rest is implied. For example, I was working with some Shia soldiers and I overheard their commander tell the soldier that they have another mission later that day. The implied part of the message was that once this mission is complete that you have to get your weapons and vehicles ready for the second mission. Working with the Sunni’s was just a little different they were able to communicate with small gestures and only needing a brief part of the message and they are able understand the entire message. They are able to do this because they stick together more as a culture and they are able to understand each other better because they are smaller in numbers their fore they stick together more often.

The communication device was able to work internal with the each culture. Even though both cultures used the same device it would only work with their culture because they were so different. Once the cultures try to communicate with each other there would be issues. Neither one of the two cultures were able to agree on anything this would only cause more problems. Since the Shia’s culture outnumbered the Sunni’s they were not able to with small gestures because they would not understand each other because they are not that close as the Sunni’s. The Sunni don’t leave any room for era such as the Shia was they leave a lot of room for era. A lot of their messages leave room for you to guess what you think the sender what’s you to do. By a person not knowing the person that well it could lead to a lot of misunderstanding. An example would be on a mission we told the Sunni soldiers we are leaving at five o’clock in the morning and we told them that we were going to be gone for 24 hours. To the Americans it was implied that we needed to bring food for at least three meals. The Sunni soldiers didn’t bring any food so we had to end the mission early due to the fact that they didn’t bring any food or water with them.

The key intercultural communication that I would apply to help solve the intercultural communication problems that I observed during my time in with the Sunni and Shia’s. The cross-cultural communication I think would work best to bring the Sunni’s and Shia’s together. The goal cross-cultural communication “is to conduct a series of intracultural analyses in order to compare one culture with another on the attributes of interest” (Lustig & Koester, 2010, p. 109). If both cultures adopted cross-cultural communication I think that these two cultures would be able to end their civil war that they currently are involved in. This type of communication would allow the two cultures to put aside their differences and began to repair thousands of years of fighting and start working together to build a better Iraq. Once each culture starts to learn more about the other culture it will only make them start to care and respect each other more and start working together as one. “Although cross-cultural comparisons are very useful for understanding cultural differences, our principle interest is in using these cross-cultural comparisons to understand intercultural communication” (Lustig & Koester, 2010, p. 55).

The approach that I think would work for my example is education and having an open mine to change. If the two cultures are willing to have an open mine to change I think that it would work out. That means both groups have to be willing to change certain things about their culture for example, the Shia’s have to be willing to allow some Sunni’s some positions within their government. I think that this alone would stop the civil war. The next thing is through education the world is changing and Iraq is not changing with the rest of the world. If they could change these two things I think that it would improve their poor ability to communicate. Once they improve their intercultural communication it’s only going to improve the entire country. I think that will start trading with them and that will only start to increase economy.

In conclusion by two main cultures in Iraq having poor intercultural communication if not only affects the cultures it also affects the entire countries international commerce and foreign policy. Even though the Sunni’s and Shia’s reside in the same country they are different in so many way such as they have different values and beliefs. If the Sunni’s and Shia’s don’t come up with a plan to start to work on a way to improve their poor intercultural communication its going to continue to drive a wedge between the two cultures. Making it harder for the two cultures to be able to start to find a way to try and improve their poor intercultural communication to make Iraq a better place to live.


Lustic, M., Koester, J., (2010). Intercultural Competence: Interpersonal Communication across

Cultures, Sixth Edition.

Moaddel, M., Tessler, M., & Inglehart, R. (2008, Winter). Saddam Hussein and the Sunni

Insurgency: Findings from Values Surveys. Political Science Quarterly, 123(4), 623-644.

Campbell, R. A. (2008). Leadership succession in early Islam: Exploring the nature and role of

historical precedents. The Leadership Quarterly, 19(4), 426–438.

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